Dignity and assisted dying: What Kant got right (and wrong)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Although Kant was generally opposed to suicide, many contemporary ethicists invoke recognizably Kantian notions, including dignity and autonomy, in their defense of assisted dying or “death with dignity.” This chapter sorts out what Kant’s understanding of dignity implies about assisted dying. Kant’s understanding of dignity as rooted in practically rational agency distinguishes his account of dignity as a trait that is universal, unified, equal, and inalienable and that entails a duty of self-preservation as fundamental to respecting rational agency. Nevertheless, Kant’s arguments do not establish an obligation to forego suicide (and hence, an obligation on the part of others not to assist in suicide) in each and every case. Although Kant’s notion of dignity cannot be deployed to defend a broad permission for suicide akin to that favored by the “death with dignity” movement, it also does not entail as restrictive a stance on morally permissible suicide or on assisted dying.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Dignity and Assisted Death
EditorsSebastian Muders
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780190675974
ISBN (Print)9780190675967
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • dignity
  • assisted dying
  • rational agency
  • duties to self
  • kantian ethics


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